Monday, April 21, 2014

Guest Post! "Measuring Leadership Accountability"

Today's fantastic guest post comes from William Gould, a #HealthcareHR executive who lives the No Excuses philosophy!

Leadership accountability seems to be a favorite, or not-so-favorite debate occupying the senior leadership meetings in healthcare organizations across the country - from the towers of the federal government, to the board rooms of community hospitals.  Here's the impetus:  the American healthcare system is a wreck, and it is going to get worse.  The point to disruptive change is disruption, and we are living it.

We must rely on adaptive leadership to get us to the next iteration of who we need to become to provide quality, low cost care for our nation and our communities.  Leaders must lead differently, and organizations must develop and hold those leaders accountable to the work that they do.  Many organizations turn to HR and OD professionals to help drive change leadership, and to measure leadership accountability.  How?  We develop programs, competencies, evaluation methodologies, and metrics.  Why?  Because we are HR and that's what we do.  Does it work? 

William GouldHR Programs 
Many leadership accountability programs look like this: supercharged job descriptions; standardized leadership competencies; 360-degree evaluations; standardized performance appraisals; and, carefully integrated incentive compensation schemes, to name a few.   

We re-brand, repackage and redeploy the same tired systems with the hope of changing leadership behaviors that will achieve break through results: higher quality outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, lower costs, and a highly engaged workforce.

Blah, blah, blah.

Same old HR programs.  But does it work?  Does it really drive different leadership behaviors, and get at the right accountability our healthcare leaders must demonstrate to transform a broken healthcare system?

We can organize, codify, and subjectively measure standard behaviors and outcomes until we are blue in the face.  The problem is that we are continuing to measure the same old behaviors, by the same tired leadership thinking that contributed to our healthcare mess.  How do we pull the right levers? 

Leadership Is Personal 
Leadership isn't a process or a program, it is a personal journey and a values-based experience.  Transformational leaders become accountable at the point where their behaviors align with their personal values and their organization's mission.  Transformational leaders are those who demonstrate the courage to take actions outside of the scope of their poorly written job descriptions.  But how are we supposed to design and measure that? 

My Own Epiphany 
I have been a healthcare HR leader for the past 15 years.  I currently work for a faith-based, mission-driven organization with a long history of providing care to the under served and poor in our community.  I drank the healthcare Kool-Aid long ago and work hard to align my professional leadership behaviors to support my organization's mission.  I too have developed a number of HR and OD programs aimed at developing leaders and measuring leadership accountability.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes.  A few weeks ago I attended the American Diabetes Association's Expo at the Colorado Convention Center (iRunDiabetes.)

My emerging personal efforts as a diabetes advocate neatly intersect with my professional work as a healthcare executive.  The Expo was marketed heavily to an under insured and under served population to provide them with healthcare and diabetes resources that can't typically access.  I am not one of them.  I am fortunate to have health insurance, and access to care.

For those who do not have diabetes, or other serious chronic conditions, it can be overwhelming even when you have access to care and the resources to pay for it.  I wandered the Expo hall with a profound sense of guilt and remorse; not just because I felt fortunate to have resources to manage my disease, but because I realized the gap that existed between my personal values, and my professional work.

I thought for days about how hard it must be for the diabetics at that Expo who do not have regular access to care. These are many of the same people who my hospital serves when their untreated condition becomes critical. 

Leadership Accountability 
I may be hitting the leadership requirements on my performance evaluation and business objectives in my paid work (although there is plenty of room to improve), but it feels like I am failing when it comes to leadership accountability - the type of leadership accountability that is going to help change the healthcare game.

Maybe my leadership accountability lies in closing the gap between my diabetes advocacy and my work as a healthcare executive?  None of this is measured in my performance evaluation.  I don't have an incentive built around improving access to an under served population - I'm a HR guy.  But if I really want to be one of the transformational leaders who contributes to changing a broken healthcare system, maybe I need to find a way to succeed.

Urgency doesn't come from a program in the workplace, or a fancy measurement scheme in the OD department.  Leadership comes from an urgency of purpose, and is based in personal values.  Maybe the best measure of leadership accountability lies in hiring the right leaders, and giving them the tools, freedom, support, and resources to really make a difference?   But, how do we measure that? 

William Gould is the VP of Human Resources and Support Services for a faith-based, nonprofit hospital in Denver, Colorado.  He is also a recovering HR and leadership blogger who is now trying his hand at writing about diabetes and his running obsession at iRunDiabetes.  His professional objective involves taking the friction out business and people processes that are most commonly caused by stupid HR practices.  He is fond of organizational development work, and passionate about wellness.  Connect with him on LinkedIn. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Am the Option

There are very few issues that I can't process a bit before responding. I may have a strong reaction on the inside, but I try not to let it show on the least not right away. That wouldn't be fair to the others involved, and it certainly wouldn't be fair to those who expect me to lead in a measured and thoughtful way.

Except for one thing.

In that case there's no processing, no calculated responses, no nervous laughter as I try to figure out my next move. When I hear, or see, or experience these moments the gloves are off and I'm all in.

See It
I see it...I hear it...the jokes...the good 'ol boy comments...the underlying messages about race, LGBT persons, and the role of women; which is quickly followed with some sort of twisted justification as to why they should be treated differently (read here --> like second-class citizens.)

Sadly even some companies, political "leaders", and countries take pride in their public attacks on other human beings who happen to be different from the "majority."

I'm here to tell you that kind of hatred doesn't work for me. Whether it's hiding behind "faith" or using subtle innuendos that degrade others. It's still hate. It's not being rude, or crass, or flip.
It's hate.

Feel It
What happens to you when you are confronted with these embarrassingly misinformed and juvenile behaviors? Does your heart rate pick up speed? Do you feel the pressure in the room change to something almost oppressive because everyone knows it's wrong?

Do you know in that specific moment it's time to strike back and lead? Or, for you is it time to welcome the familiar nervous laughter back for another appearance and hope the topic of conversation changes quickly?

My reaction is all too familiar now. I must confront the bigot. Nervous laughter is no longer an option. Hoping for someone else to step in is no longer an option.

I am the option.

How About You
Consider the choices you make in your life. Who is part of your inner circle? What leaders do you follow? What companies do you support? Do their behaviors align with your values? When you are confronted with these behaviors again, consider the most effective option that is available --> you.

You are the option too.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 


Monday, April 14, 2014

What Do You Mean I'm A Brand

I never imagined the concept of "brand" would apply to me. Brands are big things like BMW or Rolex or Calgon. I'm just a regular person, not bath soap. But somewhere between joining twitter and writing lots of blog posts, something happened. It's odd to think about really.

As it turns out when you push lots of content out to the web you get a little traction whether you want it or not. (Apparently the Internet has a certain permanency to it.)

Brands Are Now Personal
I remember when I pushed the 'publish' button for my first blog post. It was a little scary. 

I didn't know what to expect, but I did realize that I was opening myself up for a whole bunch of scrutiny if anyone other than my Mom decided to read it.

As time passed I grew more comfortable posting, commenting, and tweeting. My curiosity for all things social media transitioned to incorporating social into all aspects of my life. (My friends on foursquare are all too familiar with how much I've built social into my lifestyle.)

My Personal Brand Is My Corporate Brand, Wait, What?
When I decided to start this blog I had a conversation with the Vice President of Marketing at my company. I thought I was being really sophisticated and trendy when I told her "don't worry, this blog is separate from my's not connected to the organization at all."

Yes, I actually said that.

When she finished laughing she told me that I was "nuts" if I thought my blog would be separate from my connection to, and role with the company.

She was right.

What Does It Mean
I've wondered what a personal brand means in real life. It turns out it means a whole lot. Concepts around influence, professional reputation, and marketability suddenly swing in your favor (assuming the brand you've built is a positive one.)

What about mistakes? Yes, they happen...and since the world has an attention span of about ten seconds, you'll be just fine. I know I've managed to survive a whole bunch of mistakes and I seem to be no worse for wear.

How About You
I'm okay with this whole brand thing after all. It's been an opportunity to represent my company, share my passions, and connect with more people than I ever thought possible. How are you building your brand? (Hint: google yourself and get a quick glimpse.)

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Friday, April 11, 2014

I Can't Go Back Now (There Is No Retreat)

Life is stormy at times. Often overwhelming. Hopefully when the storm comes it hits either in our work lives, or our personal lives, but not simultaneously. When it slams into our world we feel the pressure...and sometimes it can feel like it is too much.

But it's not.

Each of our lives is filled with noise. That noise often tells us what we're supposed to do...or think...or who we're supposed to be...or what choices we should make. Those voices often place burdens of guilt and blame on us that feel so heavy we can't imagine ever getting out from underneath. Maybe we should settle and accept our fate? Maybe that noise is the 'right thing' after all?

But it's not. 

Faith In The Storm
When the pressure of the world builds to a point that you feel you cannot escape, it's time to slow down and listen. Your heart and head will guide you. You know the path that lies ahead of you. It's scary and uncertain and complicated. You know it is the right thing...but it feels like it's impossible to follow.

But it's not.

How About You
Has the time come in your life to accept that the future you once thought was so clear has turned out to be something far different? Have you seen the potential for something that is so much better that you are drawn to it and couldn't stop even if you tried?

You can't go back now. You've seen a glimpse into the future...and it is so very good!

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Personal Board of Directors

Until Charlie Judy wrote about having a personal board of directors several years ago I had never heard of the concept. Kudos to Charlie for being so far ahead. At the time I thought it was a fabulous idea, and in the 'old' Jay Kuhns style I moved on. No follow call to Charlie to explore it email shout out.


Not This Time
Recently I saw another piece about the value of a personal board of directors and I realized it was time to do something. I was actually embarrassed reading it knowing that I missed the opportunity to have my all star team in place several years ago.

Not this time. I'm on it.

Discovering My Team
What was fascinating as I started thinking about who would be on "my board" was that I already had the core team in place. They were actively 'working' for me. How did I figure it out? It was easy. I looked at who I was reaching out to for advice, support, encouragement, and feedback. That very small list was the first group to become board members.

Building My Team
The next step was a bit more intentional. I realized the small group of people that made up the  'founding members' was not large or diverse enough for me to get the comprehensive support I needed. I thought about who would help fill in the gaps in membership in order to maximize the impact of the team without making it too unwieldy to manage.

Several more names were added and suddenly my board was coming together. As my view of the world has evolved (I'm increasingly interested in marketing, branding and communications) I realized I had another slot or two that needed to be filled. That's okay...boards are supposed to be fluid. Plus, my board is functioning very well!
When Are The Meetings
There are a variety of ways to implement your personal board of directors. I'm choosing to keep my membership confidential, even from the other board members. (Although I'm sure some of you are well aware that you have been appointed!)

For me, it's not about putting pressure on my all star team to have to "do" or "be" or "act" in a new or special way. I need them to just be who they are...that's why I chose them in the first place!

How About You
I'm surprised at how empowering my board has been for me. I view them as real board members now in addition to being friends, colleagues, and confidants. It's energizing to work with them and hear their views. Candidly, it's liberating to have a team I trust enough that I can open up on just about every issue in my life.

Don't make the mistake I made when Charlie showed me the way and I didn't listen. Build your team, seek them out regularly and learn from them. They care about you, otherwise they never would have made it to such a prestigious position.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.